Beholder turns Zenyatta into paid workout

September 26th, 2015

If Beholder’s 8 1/4-length romp in the August 22 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar looked effortless, then Saturday’s win in the $300,750 Zenyatta S. (G1) at Santa Anita Park could only be classified as a paid workout.

Seriously, Beholder could have been napping and probably have won.

The bay mare moved her 2015 record to a perfect five-for-five when crossing under the wire 3 1/4 lengths the best with jockey Gary Stevens along for the ride. In fact, the only thing Stevens had to do was not fall off as Beholder settled into an early stalking spot about four wide in midpack.

My Sweet Addiction was dictating matters up front through splits of :23.43 and :47.43 while chased by Wild in the Saddle. Beholder glided up to the leader’s outside under her own power and fanned about four wide rounding the turn but still never came out of first gear.

She sailed home the easiest of winners, finishing 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:42.83. While everyone else was going to the whip, Stevens actually appeared to be standing up in the saddle as Beholder crossed loped along in the lane.

My Sweet Addiction was best of the rest, 5 1/2 lengths up on Savings Account while My Monet filled out the superfecta another half-length behind in fourth.

Beholder added a third straight win in the Zenyatta to her resume on Saturday, having scored by 1 1/4 lengths in 2013 and three parts of a length in 2014. Along the way she’s also picked up wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) as well as a pair of Eclipse Awards as champion two-year-old filly and champion three-year-old filly.

The Kentucky-bred powerhouse was forced to miss a title defense run in last year’s Distaff after coming down sick in the weeks before that race, and is likely to skip the filly-and-mare-only contest in favor of a bigger prize this season.

Beholder is now on target for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), a race she earned a spot in thanks to her Pacific Classic romp. The five-year-old mare faced males and the Classic distance of 10 furlongs in that “Win & You’re In” Challenge contest and blew them away when drawing off for trainer Richard Mandella and owner Spendthrift Farm.

If she wins the main event on October 31 at Keeneland, Beholder will not only become just the second mare to do so after Zenyatta, she’ll also deserve serious consideration for Horse of the Year honors. Many believe Triple Crown hero American Pharoah has that title all sewed up, but a defeat in the Classic added to his loss in the Travers S. (G1) last out could see the popular colt dethroned.

Beholder photo courtesy of Benoit Photos


GARY STEVENS (Beholder, winner): “Richard has a big smile on his face. He told me yesterday, ‘I want to win but by no means do I want to knock her out.’ We couldn’t have scripted it any better. I told him that he might have to tack-walk her in the morning because she pulled up full of it.”

“She’s by far the most intelligent animal I’ve ever been around and when I say animal I’m not just talking about horses, she’s so intelligent. She knows what her job is and she enjoys it; she literally loves what she’s doing. She has a great cardiovascular system but that big brain between her ears is what makes her different and special.

“The heat was weighing on Richard’s mind and was weighing on my mind the last couple of days. We didn’t want a tough race. First, because the Breeders’ Cup is coming up and it’s going to be the toughest race of her life and with the heat, you’re always wondering how much it’s going to knock them out.

“When I pulled her up that’s the first time she’s ever pulled me back to the Winners’ Circle almost like she knew she needed to get off the track but she was that fresh after the race still. It couldn’t have gone any better.

“I’m serious when I talk about the job Santa Anita has done, especially handling today. They have a new ventilation system that they put in the saddling enclosure that keeps the air moving with big fans and keeps the air cool. We had a breeze today which has helped and they made the post parades super short which has helped a lot.

“I’m not going to make any predictions but I can’t wait to get to Keeneland. I just hope everybody shows up like they did today. I’m excited about the Classic; I think that I’ll probably feel less pressure going into the Classic than what I felt today. Going into today I knew we had to get through this one as easy as possible and it was! Now it’s Richard’s job to keep her the way she is for another month. I was stressed, but more stressed about the weather than anything else. She handled it well.”

MIKE SMITH (My Sweet Addiction, second): “I feel like I won (laughing). I wanted to get second … well, the W if we could, but we all knew who was in there, and to run second to that mare is really a good thing. I was just proud of the way she acted today. She just did everything right, but we ran against Beholder. My mare’s talented. I know they’re using this race for a prep and Gary doesn’t want to do too much going into the Breeders’ Cup. So therefore he stayed with me and really carried me along. My mare ran well – she really dug in, and I couldn’t be any prouder of her.”


RICHARD MANDELLA (Beholder, winner): “It really was pretty much what I had hoped for from her. I hate to say ‘easy,’ but it really did look easy.”

Mentioned she went a little wide on the first turn: “Gary didn’t want any trouble. He just kept her in the clear and had a nice workout.”

Asked if she would run next in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against males on October 31 at Keeneland: “That would be the plan. Anything can change and nothing’s in stone, but as of now there’s no reason not to think of that.

“She needed to run because she had nothing but rest since the Pacific Classic (on August 22). She had one good workout, the rest was just rest, so she needed the race or a really good work or several good works. I actually thought with the (high) temperatures, maybe I shouldn’t run. Then I thought, if I scratch her, something else could come up, then everything would be messed up, so I stuck with it and I’m glad I did.”

“I’ll spend next week thinking about when to ship her. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll get a feel for it in a couple days and go from there.”

Asked if it was fair to ask if Beholder is as good or better than any horse he’s trained: “She’s good. She’s really, really good.”

MARTIN JONES (My Sweet Addiction, second): “She ran her heart out. Mike rode a great race. That’s where she likes to be. He got her very comfortable and she really gave it all she had. She just ran into a champion today.

“I think we’ll have to see how she comes out of the race. The Breeders’ Cup is always an option. We’d run her in the Distaff. If Beholder decides to run in the Classic, that may make our decision easier, but we’ll have to see how she comes out of the race before we make those decisions.”


B. WAYNE HUGHES (Beholder, winner): “He left something in the tank. Gary told me he never asked her to run today.”

Regarding a potential showdown with American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: “My thought is I’d like to see what happens when that takes place. He’s a very good horse. He’s one of a kind. But he’s a colt–that’s his disadvantage (laughing).”

When asked if Beholder is better now at age five than she’s ever been: “Richard says he might’ve been holding her back all these years.”

Regarding the likelihood of a six-year-old campaign in 2016: “If she’s sound and everything’s perfect, the answer is yes. We’re having so much fun…how could I ever top this?”